Several arrests have been made in Libya in connection with an investigation into the killing of U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other American officials in an attack on the U.S. Consulate in the country's eastern city of Benghazi, media reports citing Libyan officials said late on Thursday.
The officials were quoted as saying that the detained men were suspected of instigating Tuesday's violent protests which resulted in the death of the four U.S. officials. Although they said investigation into the Consulate attack was making good progress, they declined to provide further details.
An irate mob rioted outside the Consulate on Tuesday night, apparently enraged over an American film that denigrated Prophet Mohammed and depicted Islam in a poor light. Subsequently, armed militiamen stormed the mission, shooting at buildings and throwing hand grenades into the compound.
Video footage and photographs of the Consulate showed that the building was badly damaged in a blaze apparently triggered by artillery fire. It has since emerged that Ambassador Stevens and his three colleagues were killed in a rocket attack by militiamen who invaded the Consulate.
While confirming the deaths of the four U.S. diplomats in the attack, President Barack Obama pledged Wednesday that his administration would not spare any efforts in bringing the perpetrators of the attack to justice. Besides, Obama told a campaign event in Colorado on Thursday that he had ordered his administration to do everything they could to protect U.S. citizens abroad.
Currently, investigations were on to determine whether al-Qaeda-linked extremist groups had taken advantage of the rioting outside the Consulate to launch the attack that resulted in the deaths of Stevens and his colleagues.
The controversial film 'Innocence of Muslims' was reportedly produced by a U.S. citizen from California identified as Sam Bacile, 52, and was promoted by an expatriate Egyptian Coptic Christian. Media reports indicated that both men had anti-Islamic views.
An Arabic-translated trailer of the film on YouTube triggered an outrage among Muslims across the globe, with the worst rioting and demonstrations taking place outside the U.S. Embassies in Libya and Egypt on Tuesday.
Protests outside the U.S. Embassy in the Egyptian capital Cairo continued through Thursday. On Tuesday, protesters had managed to enter the Embassy compound, tear down the American flag and replace it with an Islamic banner. Although several arrests have been reported in Cairo in the last 48 hours, there were no reports of casualties in the rioting.
Separately, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on Thursday described the film as "disgusting" and
"reprehensible." She, however, stressed that "no matter how distasteful" another's views may be, nothing
justifies "attacks on innocents."
"Let me state very clearly - and I hope it is obvious - that the United States Government had absolutely nothing to do with this video," Clinton said at the top of a scheduled meeting with the Moroccan Foreign Minister Saad-Eddine Al-Othmani.
"We absolutely reject its content and message. To us, to me personally, this video is disgusting and reprehensible. It appears to have a deeply cynical purpose: to denigrate a great religion and to provoke rage," she added.
Nevertheless, protests over the film spread to the Yemeni capital Sanaa on Thursday, with demonstrators setting fire to several vehicles and attempting to breach the U.S. Embassy compound. Notably, Embassy officials had been moved to an undisclosed location earlier in the day.
Similar protests outside of U.S. Embassies in Israel, Gaza, Sudan, Tunisia, Morocco, Iraq and India-controlled Kashmir have also been reported. In response to the violence, the U.S. has strengthened security at all its foreign missions, sent Marines to Tripoli and dispatched two warships - the USS Laboon and USS McFaul - to the Libyan coast.
by RTT Staff Writer
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